Staff Picks CDs for July/August
Many of our staff are keen music listeners, and we’ve rounded up their favourite music discoveries of July & August. There’s plenty of variety, reflecting the diversity of our CD collection here at Wellington City Libraries & a myriad of different tastes. We hope you find something you haven’t come across before!
I was lucky enough to see the Baltimore duo, Beach House, live at Wellington Town Hall a while ago and it was then, with the bass pedals vibrating the whole building while Victoria Legrand’s voice swooped and glided like a gorgeous bird in flight, that I understood their sound. There is something grand and hymnal about the duo’s compositions, which critics have labelled ‘dream-pop’, and this, their fourth album is aptly named because the melodic and stately sound they have been lovingly crafting over the past three releases has been fully realised. Just gorgeous. (John)
The black chord.
This Californian psych/prog outfit’s debut album was based around long Floydesque jams that seemed familiar, even on first hearing. This, their second album, is more original sounding, and while foregoing some of the epic length pieces of The Weirding, still manages to stretch out with a mainly instrumental, keyboard and guitar-based sound, to create a satisfying and atmospheric experience. (Neil)
‘Subtitled’ is the second release from Montano, a side project of Wellington musician Michael Upton, better known for his releases under the name of Jet Jaguar. For the Montano project Michael collaborates with Melbourne based musician Shanan Holm to create intriguing ambient pieces based on field recordings of the sounds of urban Melbourne. When beats occur they are languid and subdued and the whole CD drifts along in a seductive and strangely compelling reverb driven haze, punctuated by gentle keyboards, piano and the occasional appearance of sounds such as suburban Melbourne train announcements. Lovely late night listening. (John)
Most definitely on my playlist. All her ‘Best of’ hits packed into one CD, from ‘Clap your hands’, ‘Day too soon’…to the latest of her hits ‘Titanium’ (David Guetta, feat. Sia). However my most favourite song on this album has to be ‘I go to sleep’. Although not written by her (it was written by Ray Davies and made famous by ‘The Kinks’ and ‘The Pretenders’) IMO, Sia’s version of the song has to be by far the most soulful ‘Best!’ Originally from her album ‘Some people have real problems’ – and poignantly featured in that deeply moving episode of Packed to the Rafters when Ben’s wife Mel dies. (PTTR’s fans would know what I’m talking about)… A definite listen to Sia at ‘her Best!’ (Ethel)
We are nobody / The Chap.
To celebrate their decade-long journey from “playing small clubs to small groups of stunned individuals” to “playing to small groups of stunned individuals in small clubs”, The Chap have put out ‘We Are the Best’ – “a ‘best of’, culled from their first four albums, that no one will buy”. London based, The Chap are arch pranksters and surrealists who love to re-arrange the 00’s dance-rock furniture while mercilessly satirising the music business and modern life in general. However, under the detached irony and dark humour lurk great compositions and a tight band that can really play, so, hot on the heels of ‘We Are the Best’ comes their next album, ‘We Are Nobody’, for which they claim to offer “NON-IRONIC super straight pop songs for grown-ups”. In the bands words – “We got seriously bored with the indie scene and wrote some songs about it and then got bored of writing songs about how bored we were with the indie scene. We started taking more cues from Steely Dan, Supertramp and Fleetwood Mac whom we’ve always loved. The results sounded nothing like Steely Dan, Supertramp or Fleetwood Mac”. (John)
That’s why God made the radio / The Beach Boys.
Reunions of rock-dinosaur’s like the Beach Boys seem to be the very definition of what’s wrong with the music industry. Certainly the Beach Boys story is one of the most dysfunctional family saga’s in rock, lurching from the genius of the Brian Wilson years to the strange musical diversions (some good, some bad) of the non-Brian Wilson years, to the shameless nostalgia act of the 80s & 90s – with the last decade seeming to consist of endless law suits, as various members sued each other over unpaid royalties, songwriting credits, image & brand name rights. A seemingly unlikely re-grouping occurred in 2011 to complete the ill fated abandoned ‘Smile’ album, & a reunion tour & new album co-inciding with their 50th Anniversary seemed the height of cynicism. The worst thing, though, about ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ is just how enjoyable it is. For a bunch of guys in their late 60’s & 70’s their vocals sound spot on, blending together again with an ease that belies their time apart as a band. Not just another Brain Wilson album backed by the Beach Boys, as one might expect, Mike Love gets the spotlight on ‘Daybreak Over the Ocean’ and Al Jardine gets to shine on the affecting ballad ‘From There to Back Again’, a song that easily ranks with anything else in their career. But its Wilson who is still at the core of the band’s aesthetic, & he comes to the fore on the last 4 tracks of the album – a miniature cycle of songs (linked by the same key) that focus on passing time & the loss of loved ones, and represents some of his best work. A definite guilty pleasure. (Mark)
Black radio / Robert Glasper Experiment.
In the early 2000s, Herbie Hancock-influenced pianist Robert Glasper burst onto the scene. The American jazz media, which eagerly awaited a new star, was excited and Blue Note label signed him soon after. For new generation Glasper, jazz is not the only music he was brought up with, but soul music and hip-hop also had a big impact on him. In fact, he has performed with the likes of Common, Mos Def and Kanye West, and joined Maxwell’s tour in 2009. Therefore, it may not be surprising that this new album has abounding hip-hop, nu-soul feelings featuring jaw-dropping guests including Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Chrisette Michele, Meshell Ndegeocello and Mos Def. Despite the band’s name, the music here is nothing new or edgy (Chris Dave’s drumming is worth checking out though) but very stylish indeed, and Erykah Badu (‘Afro Blue’ which is best known as John Coltrane’s repertoire) and Lalah Hathaway (Sade’s ‘Cherish the Day’) display one of their best performances. This is not a jazz album. It’s the album that compiles a variety of black music such as R&B, jazz, soul and its tradition and pride, and could be a good showcase of black American music today. (Shinji)
‘Neon Indian’ is Texas based Alan Palomo, an artist who rose to internet fame as part of the Chillwave musical movement, which was based around the familiar warm glow of old television sets and half-remembered memories of the 1980’s. Era Extrana, his second album sees him maturing his sound into a lovely future take on pop music. It is strange that even though these earnest songs consist of sweet melodies, great beats and ear catching hooks they still seem to be beamed in from a parallel dimension and are unlikely to ever be heard broadcast outside of student radio. (John)
Songs from the inside
This 13 track album CD and accompanying DVD is from the acclaimed TV programme of the same name recently shown on Maori Television following 7 inmates, 2 from Rimutaka Men’s and 5 from Arohata Woman’s prisons, as they are mentored by four of New Zealand’s established artists singer/songwriters (Warren Maxwell, Ruia Aperahama, Anika Moa and Maisey Rika). The inmates were taught the art of song writing, performing and recording their own songs over a period of 10 weeks (10 sessions), this CD is the result of those sessions. The songs are heartfelt and deeply personal, the inspiration drawn from their own life experiences. “To get by in here I have just numbed my feelings. To write my song I had to open up.” – said by Lina, Arohata prison. The DVD, is the end result of their soul searching, the final product, their songs on film, each has an edited selection of footage from these sessions to enhance their songs… ‘the finale’. Debuted on its release at #2 on itunes, and one of the inmates Tama Pira’s song ‘Just like you’ debuted at #5 on itunes. A mix of Soul, R&B, Hip-hop and Reggae, there is something for/to everyone’s tastes. Also a song “What I am” by the beautiful talented Maisey Rika also appears on the album with backing vocals by the Arohata women and Anika Moa; and finally the theme song from the programme (‘My gift’ – track 13) is sung by Warren Maxwell and was written by executive producer Julian Arahanga (who most people would recognise for his role as Nig Heke from ‘Once were warriors’) and is both emotive and profound. Highly recommended! (Ethel)
Dirty Beaches is the solo project of Alex Zhang Hungtai, a Korean who grew up in Canada and Hawaii. His father was a big Elvis Presley and doo-wop fan and these early influences shine through the music of ‘Badlands’. Difficult to describe, the shadows of Phil Spector, Alan Vega and David Lynch hover over the music of Dirty Beaches, which is like 1950’s rockabilly filtered through a fuzzed out gauze of 90’s guitar feedback to a krautrock beat – and that’s just the first track! At 28 minutes, Badlands is little more than an EP, but Alex Zhang Hungtai, by looking backwards and forwards at the same time, has created something highly distinctive and pretty cool. It is somehow apt that a Korean who grew up in Canada is behind the creation of such a post modern American sound. (John)
Not your kind of people.
Back when they first debuted in 1994 Garbage were a new sound, with a unique mix of electronica, loops & samples fused into a ‘rock album’ context. The onslaught of technology eventually caught up with them after a 4 year gap between their 3rd album ‘Beautiful Garbage’ & 2005’s ‘Bleed Like me’. Returning 7 years after ‘Bleed like Me’ they pretty much take up where that album left off, delivering a solid album that pretty much sounds like previous Garbage albums mixed together – which if you were a fan back in the day isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While it’s somewhat disappointing in that they don’t try anything new, being around for nearly 20 years probably gives them a bit of a license to ride the reunion/nostalgia wave that’s currently re-mining previous genres & 90’s bands. Next up the rumoured returns of ‘My Bloody Valentine’ & ‘Mazzy Star’… (Mark)
Battles, from New York, explore similar musical terrain to the famous Chicago band, Tortoise for whom the term ‘post-rock’ was created. These musicians unashamedly incorporate a wide array of stylistic influences from jazz and electronica all the way across the musical spectrum to prog rock. 2011’s ‘Gloss Drop’ was the band’s third release on the prestigious Warp label which was followed by a series of 12” singles featuring remixes by a range of electronic artists. ‘Dross Glop’ is the collection of those remixes and includes contributions from Gui Boratto, The Field, Hudson Mohawke and Gang Gang Dance. This CD is as much a summary of current left field electronica as it is an enticing peek inside the world of musical possibilities opened up by Battles. Great cover art too. (John)
Hello cruel world.
Stalwart Nashville singer-songwriter more well known for writing songs covered by other artists (Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Adams, Lee Ann Womack) than her own solo work. Her country-ish folk/rock sound is similar to other singers such as Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Kim Richey or Shawn Colvin, in that it never really fits into one particular genre, though she hasn’t achieved the recognition or cult following of some of those artists. ‘Hello Cruel World, her 6th album, is full of more downbeat meditations on life & loss, intelligent lyrics, & quality musicianship. Worth a listen if you like any of the artists above, or the kind of music that gets lumped into the catch-all genre ‘Americana’. (Mark)
Live at Carnegie Hall / Caetano Veloso and David Byrne.
This is a famous concert among fans. In 2004, Brazil’s national treasure Caetano Veloso was the first non-classical musician invited by the Carnegie Hall for their Perspective Concert Series, and he asked his long-time friend David Byrne to join. It’s a mystery why this hasn’t been issued before, but here it is; we can finally taste that precious, will-never-recur night. It’s a very intimate, acoustic show (perhaps almost no rehearsals), but nicely developed opening with Veloso’s mesmerising guitar and vocal. Byrne follows with his acoustic guitar playing the Talking Heads’ songs. Then, two rock maestros come together on stage and give the joyful joint performance including Talking Heads’ ‘(Nothing but) Flowers’ which is probably the highlight of the night. The audience clearly enjoy this unique occasion and give massive applause with warmth. I wish I was there. I would have swooned! (Shinji)